Human beings are inherently social creatures. Social groups provide us with an important part of our identity, and more than that, they teach us a set of skills that help us to live our lives. Feeling socially connected, especially in an increasingly isolated world, is more important than ever.
Social connections can:
- Improve your quality of life
- Boost your mental health
- Help you live longer
When you became a carer your social circle may have decreased, and you have less time on your hands and other priorities. You may have had to reduce hours at work or leave your employment altogether where you had lots of social connections which have now disappeared. The extra costs of caring and the fall in income many carers face may mean you cannot afford social activities anymore. It can also feel like nobody understands your situation which amplifies feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
The desire for social connections is inherent in us all but that does not mean maintaining or gaining new friendships is easy. Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.
It's important to recognise that the number of friends you have is irrelevant, the quality of the friendships and the reciprocal love and support you can get from good friends is what counts. Don't be afraid to lose 'friends' as well as find the strength to be open and honest about your changing circumstances to the ones worth investing in.
This might be a good time to stop and reflect on what you want from social connections? Is it somebody to talk to who you can relate about a specific thing such as your caring role? Is it escapism, somebody you can connect with who you can do an activity with? Identifying your own interests and hobbies is a great place to start. What kind of personalities are you naturally comfortable around?
It's never too late to build new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.
How can I make new social connections?
This video from Be More Us was launched in 2018 by the charity Campaign to End Loneliness. The Campaign to End Loneliness was founded in 2011 and was the first organisation in the UK dedicated to tackling loneliness. The video highlights how easy it can be to make new social connections if we had the inhibitions of a child. Take a look at some tips and ideas from the Campaign to End Loneliness if you are feeling lonely.
If you are aged 50 plus and live in Middlesbrough you can find a wide range of social activities including sports groups, art and craft clubs and coffee mornings. Ageing Better Middlesbrough is aimed at reducing social isolation and loneliness. The team have compiled a database of activities in your area. You can also self-refer to their telephone befriending service for a regular friendly chat with one of their supportive team members.
Everyone is different, and carers all have different needs for support, so there must be a range of options available. Peer support from people who understand can help many carers feel less alone, for example through a carer support group or social activities organised by a local carers organisation. Many local organisations provide peer support groups and friendship groups to encourage carers to come together in a safe and confidential space. Here are a couple of organisations that can help if you want to access groups through carers services:
Carers Together provide a range of activities for local carers to engage with (currently being delivered through Zoom) from singalongs and bingo to resilience and wellbeing workshops. You can see all their activities on their website calendar.
Some aspects of caring can also be very difficult to share with others, even when talking to someone who understands. You may feel more comfortable opening up in online groups such as the forum provided by Carers UK.
Age UK Teesside, Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind and Redcar & Cleveland Mind all deliver activities and coffee mornings throughout the year for carers you can find out more on their websites or keep an eye on our news section or follow us on Facebook for information about upcoming activities and events.
Community Ventures (Middlesbrough) Ltd (CVL) is a support hub based in the centre of Thorntree, Middlesbrough. The CVL team are encouraging local carers to connect to others in a welcoming environment, recognising the importance for carers to maintain social connections in a supportive space. Find out more.
A great way to meet new people is through volunteering. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.
Contact your local Volunteer Centre for information, advice and support in finding the right opportunity for you:
Telephone: 01642 803613 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Dealing with loneliness can be difficult. But there are things we can all do to cope with loneliness and prevent some of the negative feelings and mental health problems that can come with it.
We've worked with people who have experienced loneliness to develop some help and advice that you might find useful for yourself or to support other people who are feeling lonely." The Mental Health Foundation. Download the information now: